The 650B wheeled V10 is a bit like a rumbling volcano in that pretty much everyone knew that it was going to happen, but not many knew exactly when. There were murmurs of it breaking cover in South Africa earlier in the season, and then some intel that Fort William would see the curtain pulled back, but it seems as though either Santa Cruz or their World Cup racers weren't ready to introduce the new machine until this weekend's Canadian World Cup round on the legendary Mont Sainte Anne track. What's that? Getting a bit tired of all these "new" bikes with slightly larger wheels? I hear you, but Santa Cruz making the switch, and the fact that they're one of the last major players to debut a 650B downhill bike, is a quite the omen when you consider that the 26" wheeled V10, in all of its different incarnations, is the winningest downhill race bike ever built. It should come as no surprise that the 650B version closely mirrors the lines of the 26" machine - why would Santa Cruz make a wholesale change in design when it's obvious that the bike is already a proven performer?
The bigger wheels are only part of the story, however, as we suspect that there are some changes to the bike that are far less obvious. Santa Cruz wouldn't comment, of course, but I don't think it's too out of line to assume that although the frame looks nearly identical to the previous model, it likely sports a revised carbon layup that either makes it a) lighter, b) stronger or c) both. This is 100% speculation on my part, but if Santa Cruz invested in new and expensive molds for the 650B frame, they have also likely applied what they've learned about carbon fiber since they debuted the first V10c. There are slight differences in the bike's top tube and seat mast area as well, with the new bike featuring a straighter but lower top tube and a more angular shape at the seat mast, differences that can be seen in the rough overlay of the old and new bikes pictured to the right. Small differences, no doubt, but indicative of tweaks to its carbon layup.
And what about the bike's geometry? It would have had to be altered in order to compensate for the larger diameter wheels, with more bottom bracket drop built into the frame and tweaks to the head angle and trail figures (via the 650B specific FOX 40 Float RC2
). Again, Santa Cruz hasn't confirmed or denied anything in terms of geometry, but it's safe to say that there have been some updates.
The new bike was always going to use the VPP suspension layout, but we've got word from the pits that Santa Cruz has made some subtle changes to the leverage ratio. Comparing the old and new bikes side by side does seem to support this, with the new version's shock looking like it's sitting on a slightly different angle within the frame, and the upper link sporting a moderately different shape. There's no word on what Santa Cruz might be aiming to accomplish with these changes. There doesn't appear to be any updates to the bike's swingarm, and a close look at the amount of tire clearance out back hints that it may even be the same unit as found on the 26" bike given that there appears to actually be less clearance. Stay tuned to Pinkbike for more information on the new 650B V10